'Vendor' vs 'Supplier': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on October 31, 2023

‘Vendor’ vs ‘supplier’: What’s the difference? Words can sometimes appear as synonyms, but in reality, they are less alike than we think. In this article, we’ll show you how to find the nuances that separate ‘vendor’ vs ‘supplier.’

Are you in a rush? Here’s a quick preview of what’s to come:

  • ‘Vendor’ is a word that refers to someone who sells goods or services
  • ‘Supplier’ is a word that refers to someone who makes things

What’s the Difference Between ‘Vendor’ vs ‘Supplier?

One confusing aspect of these words is their tendency to appear as synonyms, making them tricky to tell apart

As a reminder, synonyms are sets of words or expressions in the same language that have the same or nearly the same meaning.

For example:

  • furious and seething. 

The words ‘vendor’ vs ‘supplier’ can be considered synonyms in the sense that they both refer to people who give away and handle goods and services, but the key is they do this in different ways. 

  • Vendor’ refers to someone who specifically sells items or services.
  • Supplier’ refers to someone who makes or distributes items or services. While a ‘supplier’ may do this for a fee, their main goal isn’t usually selling. 

To understand this, perhaps it’s best to consider a chain of events:

  • ‘Suppliers’ make and distribute the goods,
  • ‘Vendors’ sell the goods, and consumers buy the goods. 

For example, let’s look at something simple like fruit.

  • The farmers are the ‘suppliers’ who grow the fruit, then they send it to the grocery store.
  • The ‘vendor’ sells the fruit to the public. 

In the grocery store example, we can see how both ‘vendor’ vs ‘supplier’ act as a type of provider, but the way they do it and who they are providing to are the main differences. 

Now that we have an understanding of how these two terms compare, we can get to know them a bit better individually. Let’s go more in-depth with ‘vendor’ vs ‘supplier.’

Definition of ‘Vendor’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘vendor’ is a noun that means:

  • A person or company offering something for sale, especially a trader in the street
    • “He was an Italian ice cream vendor.”
  • A person or company whose principal product lines are office supplies and equipment
    • "She was the premiere paper vendor." 
  • (law) the seller, especially of property
  • A person or company that sells goods or services
    • “They deal with many clothing vendors.”

Synonyms of ‘Vendor’

  • Dealer
  • Seller
  • Merchant
  • Peddler
  • Hawker
  • Businessperson
  • Company
  • Trader
  • Retailer
  • Distributor
  • Merchandiser

Antonyms of ‘Vendor’

  • Purchaser
  • Buyer
  • Consumer
  • Customer
  • User
  • Shopper
  • Patron
  • Manager

Phrases with ‘Vendor’

  • Street vendor
  • Ice cream vendor
  • Local vendor
  • Outdoor vendors
  • Software vendor
  • Party vendors

Definition of ‘Supplier’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘supplier’ is a noun that means:

  • A person or organization that provides something needed, such as a product or service
    • “Every major energy supplier has upped their prices.”
  • A company, person, or country that provides things people want or need, especially over a long period of time
    • “They were the lead supplier of military equipment.”

Note: the word ‘sell’ is absent from these definitions, and while money is often involved, it is not the central driver for ‘suppliers.’

Remembering this will help you remember that selling is a crucial component to ‘vendors,’ not ‘suppliers.'

Synonym of ‘Supplier’

  • Provider
  • Dealer
  • Retailer
  • Distributor
  • Purveyor
  • Creator
  • Maker
  • Manufacturer
  • Trader
  • Purchaser
  • Craftsmen
  • Wholesaler

Antonyms of ‘Supplier’

  • Buyer
  • Purchaser
  • Consumer
  • Redistributor
  • Reseller
  • Upcycle 
  • User
  • Taker

Phrases with ‘Supplier’

  • Largest supplier
  • Leading supplier
  • Supplier contract
  • Energy supplier 

Pronunciations: How to Pronounce ‘Vendor’ vs ‘Supplier’

We don’t only use new vocabulary while writing, so it is important to learn proper pronunciations. Follow the guides below to get a better understanding of how to say our new words aloud so you feel comfortable using them in conversation. 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘vendor’ as a guide:

  • ‘Vehn-derr’ (both vowels end up sounding the same, with a flat sound like the ‘e’ in the word “lend” or “pet”)

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘supplier’ as a guide:

  • ‘Suh-ply-err’ (note that the ‘u’ is not round but flat like in “run” and the ‘i’ sound is tall like in “high”)

How to Use ‘Vendor’ vs ‘Supplier’ in a Sentence

The final step to mastering any new words is actually being able to use them. The sample sentences below will give you a sense of how these words can appear in a variety of contexts. 

‘Vendor’ Example Sentences

  • The local holiday market featured a collection of local vendors who sold small goods that were perfect for gift-giving. 
  • On her lunch break, she preferred getting food from a street vendor to paying for an overpriced restaurant meal. 
  • Their company wanted to work with vendors who were looking for a place to promote new products. 
  • He signed up for a vendor slot at the market so he could make some extra money selling his goods. 

‘Supplier’ Example Sentences

  • During the pandemic, many store shelves were empty because suppliers couldn’t ship products fast enough.  
  • They were one of the leading suppliers of sustainable energy equipment and were quickly growing in popularity.
  • His goal was to corner the market and be the primary supplier of organic makeup products. 
  • The restaurant never changed its tomato sauce recipe because they always got their ingredients from the same local supplier

‘Vendor’ vs ‘Supplier’ Example Sentences

  • As one of the largest suppliers of baked goods in the area, the bakery would always set up a vendor’s table at local events. 
  • The ice cream vendor regularly met with his suppliers to make sure he would get enough product each week. 

Final Words on ‘Vendor’ vs ‘Supplier’

While words may appear to be synonyms at first, there is often a key difference that helps us tell words apart. This not only helps us learn more but also makes our writing more clear. Remember that if the word ‘sell’ isn’t present, you’re likely dealing with a ‘supplier,’ not a ‘vendor. 

Need a quick review? Here’s a recap of what we learned:

  • ‘Vendor’ is a noun that refers to someone who sells products or services. 
  • ‘Supplier’ is a noun that refers to someone who distributes or creates goods or services. 

Want to learn more about navigating tricky synonyms? Be sure to check out other confusing word articles that not only help you differentiate new vocabulary but show you how to find the key distinctions you need to tell words apart. 

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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